How the ‘Toyota Way’ has revolutionized the world

By: DavidPage

The Toyota Production System, also known as “The Toyota Way”, has been widely copied and studied around the globe due to its consistent success. Here’s a quick overview of Toyota’s legendary manufacturing process and how it has changed the world.

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What is the Toyota Production System (TPS)?

The Toyota Way, a socio-technical integrated system, is one of the main precursors to lean manufacturing. These techniques were used by Toyota Motor Company in the 1950s and 60s. The Toyota Production System is widely credited for Toyota’s success and resilience to market changes.

Although there are many studies that have been done on the Toyota Production System, these can be summarized in three principles.

  • Quickly and clearly identifying problems and providing solutions.
  • Actively eliminating waste, inconsistency, unreasonable requirements.
  • Continuously improving design, production, as well as employee development.

The Toyota Way Has Changed the Auto Industry

TPS was a global success story as Toyota maintained one of the fastest growing automotive market shares. Toyota was able to complete a vehicle in half as long as GM and Ford. This was 1998. American companies were closing the gap by adopting lean manufacturing methods from their owners by 2009. Currently, Honda and Chrysler have adopted some version of the Toyota Production System.

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TPS Impact on Manufacturing

Toyota’s success has been noticed by top companies all over the globe. Over the past decade, Caterpillar and Boeing, a jet-maker, have rebuilt and re-engineered many of their plants to follow in the footsteps of Toyota. These changes resulted in increased profitability for both companies.

Caterpillar used TPS principle of Kaizen during the economic downturn to quickly recognize the drop in demand for manufacturing and cut production to maintain profitability in a down marketplace.

Even non-automotive and non-machinery companies have tried to implement the Toyota Production System’s key principles. The success of the U.S.-based Batesville Casket Company in a declining market can be attributed to the “Toyota Way”, which focuses on improving casket production processes, and reducing overall costs, even though revenue has declined.

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Toyota Production System beyond Manufacturing

The TPS can be applied to all industries. The Toyota-lean process was adopted by Barnes-Jewish Hospital workers, and stroke patients received treatment 20 minutes quicker. This is a significant time saving. Additionally, healthcare organizations such as Medicare and Medicaid have discovered that waste-reducing measures can positively impact safety and quality. Both individuals and institutions will reap the fiscal benefits of eliminating redundant processes and procedures.

The Toyota Production System Support Center, (TSSC), teamed up 20 New Orleans recovery programs after Hurricane Katrina. The St. Bernard Project, a non-profit that rebuilds homes and employs military veterans, was one of those programs. TPS principles helped the St. Bernard Project to employ three times more veterans and reduce build time by 20%.

Another example: The EPA was attracted to the Toyota Production System’s achievements in waste reduction. The EPA published a 2003 case study report on lean manufacturing and its environmental benefits.

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Toyota’s genius has changed the world

The Toyota Way continues to be a successful tool for improving businesses and fundamentally changing industries. Implementing the basic principles of Toyota Production System has brought financial success to thousands of companies over the past half-century.